Basketball: Cal recruiting targets fab in Vegas

Three prospects being pursued by Cal — and many others — exceled Sunday night as the Drew Gooden Oakland Soldiers routed the Iowa Barnstormers 86-66 in the championship game of the Fab 48 tournament in Las Vegas.

Oakland HS shooting guard Jabari Brown had 19 points, power foward Brandon Ashley, a junior-to-be at Bishop O’Dowd, contributed 15 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots, and power forward Kyle Wiltjer of Oregon scored 16 points.

“This meant a lot because we didn’t win the Peach Jam and we really wanted to win this,” Brown told Rivals.com. “It’s pretty easy playing with these guys because everybody is a great player and we feed off each other, we’re all unselfish and so that makes it easier.”

Team sponsor Drew Gooden was on hand to watch the Soldiers, as was LeBron James, who also played in the program during part of two summers while in high school.


Football: Predictions — No. 5 Arizona

No. 5: Arizona. It was as late as November last season and the Wildcats controlled their own destiny to win the Pac-10 title. But a visit to Cal derailed those hopes, as the Bears sent Arizona packing with a 24-16 victory. A 44-41 loss in a whale of a game the following week against Oregon put the conference title out of reach, but the Wildcats responded by beating Arizona State and USC — both on the road — to close out the regular season.

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Football/basketball: Building a 12-Pac

Check out our stories this morning on the Pac-10’s difficult task of determining divisional alignment when expansion arrives. The stakes are high in football, where two divisions are necessary for the league to stage a championship game. Divisions may not be necessary in basketballl and other sports, but scheduling will be just as difficult.

Pac-10 athletic directors and commissioner Larry Scott will gather in Los Angeles on Friday to begin the process.


Football: Predictions — No. 7 Cal

No. 7: Cal. The Bears finished in sixth place in the Pac-10 last season (tied for fifth with USC; lost head-to-head matchup). Is there really any reason to believe they will be better this season? There were only a few bright spots from their disappointing defense, and two of those — defensive end Tyson Alualu and cornerback Syd’Quan Thompson — have taken their talents to the NFL. Meanwhile, the offense looks like it could be a lot like last year — strong running game, suspect passing game.

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Football: Predictions — No. 8 UCLA

No. 8: UCLA. Rick Neuheisel has done a good job recruiting since taking over at UCLA in December of 2007, but the program has yet to reap the benefits. There are several young players on the Bruins roster with potential, but there’s nothing to demonstrate UCLA will suddenly put it together this season and finish any better than its eighth-place standing last year.

The Bruins biggest problem is they are lacking at the skill positions. UCLA enters another season without a dangerous tailback. Johnathan Franklin led the Bruins in rushing last season with 556 yards but saw his playing time dwindle as the year went on. Before it’s all said and done, UCLA might go with one of two true freshman at tailback — highly coveted Malcom Jones or Jordon James.

Quarterback Kevin Prince has potential, but he needs an upgrade in receivers. Nelson Rosario and Taylor Embree provide big targets but neither is a gamebreaker. UCLA may need a big contribution from Josh Smith, a Colorado transfer who was an All-Big 12 kick returner. He has the explosiveness to give Prince a deep threat down the field.

But Prince will need to stay back in the pocket first, and that prospect is dicey with UCLA’s offensive line. This unit wasn’t very good last year and the Bruins lost starting left tackle Xavier Su’a-Filo to his Mormon mission. Key backup Stan Hasiak, a onetime Cal commit, is also out because of academics.

Defense kept UCLA in games last year and the Bruins will need that to happen again this year. Despite the loss of Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year Brian Price, the Bruins should have one of the conference’s top defenses with Rahim Moore anchoring the secondary and athletic linebacker Akeem Ayers making plays all over the field. Moore led the nation last year with 10 interceptions while Ayers had 75 tackles, six sacks and four interceptions (two returned for touchdowns).

UCLA also features arguably the nation’s best kicker, Kai Forbath.


Basketball: ESPN’s anonymous coaches survey nets intriguing answers

An excellent piece of work by Dana O’Neil and ESPN.com, who solicited anonymous responses from 20 high-level college basketball coaches on a variety of topics, some of them so sensitive you could never get coaches to respond on the record.  

The topics include what coaches really think of the July recruiting period, do they trust their fellow coaches, which conference is the cleanest and dirtiest, and how often during the recruitment process does someone else — a parent or coach — ask for something in return.


Football: Predictions — No. 9 Arizona State

No. 9: Arizona State. If picking Washington State to finish last is a slam dunk, projecting ASU at No. 9 is an easy finger roll layup. That’s where the Sun Devils finished last season and they don’t look any better — and quite possibly substantially worse — this season. At least last year ASU had its defense going for it. The Sun Devils finished last year ranked No. 13 in the country in total defense (297.58 yards allowed per game). ASU has lost seven starters from that unit and doesn’t appear to have done much to improve its anemic offense.

The Sun Devils still have talent on defense. Linebacker Vontaze Burfict has made several preseason All-Pac-10 and All-American lists and defensive tackle Lawrence Guy could emerge as one of the conference’s top down linemen. But ASU will be hard-pressed to match last year’s performance on defense, which was dominant at times.

Can the Sun Devils make up for it on offense? That doesn’t appear likely, either. Danny Sullivan gave them iffy quarterback play last season and they will be starting from scratch this year. Steven Threet, a Michigan transfer, appears to be the leading candidate to take over signal-calling duties but Brock Osweiler, who threw 55 passes last year, is also in the mix. Samson Szakacsy fell behind after suffering a shoulder injury during the spring. Whomever takes over the quarterback duties will be running a new, no-huddle offense introduced by new offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone.

ASU hasn’t had an established featured running back in a few years now and that doesn’t appear to change this year. And arguably the Sun Devils’ top two offensive weapons last year — wide receivers Chris McGaha and Kyle Williams — are both gone.

Coach Dennis Erickson was the toast of the town in Tempe when he took over ASU’s program in 2007 and led them to a 10-3 record and a final No. 11 ranking in the BCS standings. Now many believe this will be his last season at the helm unless he pulls off a miracle.


Football: Martin to Florida

I talked to Chris Martin again today and he confirmed what some media outlets had been reporting from his facebook page, that he indeed is transferring to Florida.

Martin said Florida was the only school he considered once he made the choice to leave Cal. He had already taken a visit there during high school and had considered going there after he decommitted to Notre Dame.

Martin said he will indeed be subjected to NCAA transfer rules and have to sit out this season. He also said that Jeff Tedford’s friendship with Florida coach Urban Meyer didn’t factor into his decision, only to say that Tedford “was supportive of it.”